In the coaching profession, region rivals are often friendly due to proximity, shared interests, and common obstacles faced.
North Myrtle Beach’s Matt Reel and Wilson’s Derek Howard are a little closer than friendly, talking on the phone multiple times a week and chatting often throughout the football season.
This week, the communication is a little more sparse.
“Derek and I are good friends, but this week we maybe won’t talk quite as much as normal,” Reel said on Wednesday with a grin. “This week is just a little bit different.”
The Chiefs (5-0, 1-0 Region 6-4A) face their toughest test to date in the region as Wilson comes to town. The Tigers (6-0, 1-0 Region 6-4A) have won their contests this season by an average of 26 points and only give up about 11 points per game.
“This is a team that is really, really athletic,” Reel said. “They’ve been in Derek’s system for a few years now and you can tell he really has put his stamp on things. They are fast and physical on all sides and will really present a tough matchup for us.”
The Chiefs, currently ranked No. 4 in Class 4A, are no slouch on defense, giving up an average of just 4.2 points per game, but things get tougher facing the No. 5 ranked team in the class.
Helping the cause of North Myrtle Beach is a bit of bad luck turned into a positive. Starting quarterback Ramsey Lewis has been dealing with an injury that has hampered his production for the past few weeks.
To help him along in his recovery, the Chiefs have turned to a two-sport star in Cam Freeman to fill in at quarterback. Freeman, a sophomore who is committed to Georgia Tech to play baseball, brings a different element to the field when he’s out commanding the Chiefs offense.
“Ramsey is one of those guys who can put his foot in the ground and go 80 to the house,” Reel said. “You can’t replace that. Cam sees the field a little bit differently than Ramsey at the quarterback position and brings a little bit more in the passing game. The good thing for us is that we have both of them.”
No matter how many times they speak this week, Reel won’t have an answer for Howard’s questions about the Chiefs backfield. It’s not because he doesn’t want to share the information or needs a competitive edge; rather the Chiefs’ head man doesn’t know himself how the quarterback position will settle itself come kickoff.
“If Ramsey is healthy and 100 percent ready to go, he’s our guy at the quarterback spot,” Reel said. “If he’s not, you may still see him back there but in a different role. The best thing is, no matter who is back there we run the same plays and both guys can run them well. I don’t want to risk playing Ramsey for 30 plays (against Wilson) and then lose him for the rest of the season, so we’ll have to be really careful with that.”
While he’s not walking around school in bubble wrap at this point, Lewis is a key cog for North Myrtle Beach. He leads the team in rushing with 339 yards and five scores and is still the leading passer with 276 yards and a touchdown pass.
Last season, North Myrtle Beach went to Wilson and didn’t find much success, losing the regular season matchup 14-9 during a stretch where the Chiefs struggled to move the ball. They found their groove in the playoffs and dispatched the Tigers 34-22 to end Wilson’s season.
This season, more of the same looks to be the norm as Region 6-4A has three teams ranked in the top 10 with Myrtle Beach taking the unanimous top spot. Hartsville was in the rankings last week but fell to No. 11 this week after falling to Myrtle Beach last Friday.
As two undefeated teams meet in Little River Friday night there will be a winner and a loser, then two friends will embrace at midfield under the lights.
Week 7 Schedule
Marion at Aynor
Carolina Forest at South Florence
Conway at Socastee
Timmonsville at Green Sea Floyds
Loris at Dillon
Darlington at Myrtle Beach
Wilson at North Myrtle Beach
Bishop England at Waccamaw
St. James at West Florence (Thursday)